What does Judges 21:5 mean?
ESV: And the people of Israel said, “Which of all the tribes of Israel did not come up in the assembly to the LORD?” For they had taken a great oath concerning him who did not come up to the LORD to Mizpah, saying, “He shall surely be put to death.”
NIV: Then the Israelites asked, 'Who from all the tribes of Israel has failed to assemble before the LORD?' For they had taken a solemn oath that anyone who failed to assemble before the LORD at Mizpah was to be put to death.
NASB: Then the sons of Israel said, 'Who is there among all the tribes of Israel who did not go up to the Lord in the assembly?' For they had taken a solemn oath concerning anyone who did not go up to the Lord at Mizpah, saying, 'He shall certainly be put to death.'
CSB: The Israelites asked, "Who of all the tribes of Israel didn't come to the Lord with the assembly? " For a great oath had been taken that anyone who had not come to the Lord at Mizpah would certainly be put to death.
NLT: Then they said, 'Who among the tribes of Israel did not join us at Mizpah when we held our assembly in the presence of the Lord?' At that time they had taken a solemn oath in the Lord’s presence, vowing that anyone who refused to come would be put to death.
KJV: And the children of Israel said, Who is there among all the tribes of Israel that came not up with the congregation unto the LORD? For they had made a great oath concerning him that came not up to the LORD to Mizpeh, saying, He shall surely be put to death.
NKJV: The children of Israel said, “Who is there among all the tribes of Israel who did not come up with the assembly to the Lord?” For they had made a great oath concerning anyone who had not come up to the Lord at Mizpah, saying, “He shall surely be put to death.”
Verse Commentary:
This verse reveals another oath pledged by the people of Israel before going into battle with Benjamin (Judges 20:12–13; 27–28). The first oath was that none of the eleven tribes would give daughters to marry the men of Benjamin. The other is that any clan or family group which did not participate in the assembly of tribes at Mizpah—a summit meant to bring judgment on Gibeah—would be put to death.

The intent of this oath seems to have been to unify Israel. The people intended to present a clear message that they were on the side of the Lord, and against the heinous atrocities happening in the Benjaminite city of Gibeah (Judges 19:22–28). Those who would not stand against such sin, or so the thinking seems to be, were guilty of enabling it. This oath may explain why Israel felt compelled to utterly wipe out all men, women, and children of Benjamin—despite no such command from God (Judges 20:47–48).

Only now does Israel investigate to see which groups, if any, didn't send support for the war. The motive for asking this question in this moment becomes clear as the passage continues. In addition to fulfilling an oath, Israel is looking for some way to provide wives for the surviving men of Benjamin without breaking a different oath (Judges 21:6–7).
Verse Context:
Judges 21:1–7 finds Israel mourning. After the other eleven tribes raged through the territory in a civil war, only six hundred men survive from the tribe of Benjamin. Cities, animals, women, and children have been wiped out. Beyond that, the Israelites made an unwise oath not to give wives to Benjamin. The people weep and make sacrifices to God, but He remains silent. Israel's leaders investigate which clans did not send anyone to fight in the war. This might give them a way to honor their oath while sparing Benjamin from extinction.
Chapter Summary:
Israel grieves the near extinction of the tribe of Benjamin, though the situation is the result of their own excessive force. Worse, the other eleven tribes vowed not to give wives to Benjamin. To prevent the loss of a tribe, two schemes are enacted. First, the Israelites of Jabesh-gilead are wiped out for not sending anyone to support the civil war; the young women are spared and given as wives to Benjamin. Next, the remaining unmarried men of Benjamin stage an arranged kidnapping to "take" wives they cannot be "given." The book ends with another reminder of Israel's lawlessness in this era.
Chapter Context:
Judges 21 finds the people of Israel reeling after they killed nearly every person in the tribe of Benjamin. This began as an effort to enact justice and turned into a wide-ranging massacre. To keep Benjamin from dying out, Israel's leaders must work around their own mistakes and two ill-considered vows. The book ends with another reminder that Israel was without a king in this era. The nation was literally leaderless, and spiritually rebellious. Soon, the judge-and-prophet Samuel will rise to guide the people into the era of kings.
Book Summary:
The Book of Judges describes Israel's history from the death of Joshua to shortly before Israel's first king, Saul. Israel fails to complete God's command to purge the wicked Canaanites from the land (Deuteronomy 7:1–5; 9:4). This results in a centuries-long cycle where Israel falls into sin and is oppressed by local enemies. After each oppression, God sends a civil-military leader, labeled using a Hebrew word loosely translated into English as "judge." These appointed rescuers would free Israel from enemy control and govern for a certain time. After each judge's death, the cycle of sin and oppression begins again. This continues until the people of Israel choose a king, during the ministry of the prophet-and-judge Samuel (1 Samuel 1—7).
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